Chicago & Madison

It was a schoolboy error: I forgot to switch off my mobile when I went to bed. A colleague called me shortly after 9am UK time, and once I'm awake enough to answer the phone, that's generally it.

Which is why I found myself out & about, on the freezing winter streets of Chicago, at around 5am, with my meeting not until 11am.

There was one huge upside, though: I got to see The Bean, perhaps my favourite piece of sculpture in the world (though the Fulcrum comes a close second) utterly deserted. There was me and one very cold-looking, very bored-looking security guard - and that was it. No-one else there at all. It was magical.

Of course, the one downside of having the place to myself was that the usual photo opportunities are missing. Fortunately I had the opportunity to return again at lunchtime for those.

I have friends in Madison,so hopped on a bus to spend the weekend with them. I'm a great fan of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture, and Madison was his home town, so I was hopeful that I might get to see the Holy Trinity Church and perhaps one or two other FLW buildings.

Little did I understand Gene & Kitty's idea of hospitality: they pretty much devoted the entire weekend to taking me to see every FLW building within a 50-mile radius. Kitty's architectural expertise meant that it truly was a guided tour.

We started with that amazing church:

It was locked when we arrived, but Gene knocked on the door and someone emerged. It's amazing how well the words "This is Ben and he's come all the way from London to see the church" can work, and within seconds we were inside. :-)

Apologies to the worshippers, but when I'm filthy-rich, this is going to be my apartment. I may have it shipped over to London for convenience.

Another of his more famous buildings is Monona Terrace, right on the shore of Lake Monona (or Ice-rink Monona as it was at the time).

Who else could make the entrance to the Gents look beautiful?

We even drove out to his home, though we couldn't get very far into the grounds:

I was rather disappointed to discover from Kitty that his famous cantilevered floors never worked very well, even when they were new, requiring various bits of remedial work and even propping-up.

Damn. They were so gorgeous, they really ought to have worked if there was any engineering justice in the world.